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Rappaport, E.A. (1976). Notes on Blindness and Omniscience: From Oedipus to Hitler. Psychoanal. Rev., 63:281-289.

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(1976). Psychoanalytic Review, 63:281-289

Notes on Blindness and Omniscience: From Oedipus to Hitler

Ernest A. Rappaport Author Information

In developing his theory of the Oedipus complex, Freud associated blindness with castration and interpreted the self-blinding of King Oedipus as symbolic of self-castration, a self-inflicted punishment for his incestuous sexual relationship with his mother. Thus he equated blindness with impotence, and this equation served him well in the elaboration of his theory of impotence as a neurotic symptom. Commensurate with Freud's search for the origin of the individual neurosis in infancy was his search for the source of the pathology in social anthropology in the literary products of the archaic ages, in mythology. His findings once again proved useful in the pursuit of his psychoanalytic studies of the individual.

In mythology it was, above all, the inquisitiveness of the human eye which enraged the gods because it threatened their prerogatives. The punishment of blindness, then, is not specific for Oedipal desires but often represents a retaliation of the gods for the even greater arrogance of competing with them in vision and knowledge. In ancient customs the blind were treated as if they deserved their misfortune as punishment for immodest ambitions. The wicked people of Sodom were struck blind because of their sins, and when David besieged the Jebusites of Jerusalem he took stringent measures against the blind. As outcasts of society, the blind were kept quarantined outside the city gates. In some parts of India the blind are given no organized assistance because blindness is considered a punishment for major sins in one's previous existence. Even in Western countries parents may unconsciously feel that their child was punished with blindness because of their own sins, and they reject the child as an unwelcome reminder. Seligman10 reports that in Würzburg in the

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